CEDAR FALLS — For the second straight game it appeared as if there was a party along the Northern Iowa football team’s sideline.
Big plays both on offense and defense were celebrated in earnest Saturday in a 34-14 win over Southern Utah.
That excitement is even carrying over to head coach Mark Farley.
“If we can play with that kind of temperament it really brings life to your team,” Farley said. “I’m excited for what can happen. But we still have a lot of work to do to make it happen.”
The victory over the Thunderbirds, which followed a strong performance in a triple overtime loss to Iowa State, has the Panthers feeling good as they head into their open date.
UNI doesn’t return to the playing field until Sept. 21 when they host the second of three Big Sky opponents they will face this season, Idaho State. The Bengals have played just once this season a 38-13 victory over Division II Western Colorado on Thursday, and play at Utah this Saturday.
There will be prep work made on Idaho State during the bye week, but much of the next week of practice, at least from what Farley was saying, will be trying to find some answers with the Panther rushing game
Through two games, UNI has rushed for just 139 yards.
“I’m not going to say I’m concerned,” Farley said. “We got to get better at it. There is no question that everybody is frustrated that we are not running the football better than we are.”
Saturday against SUU was a step forward, but it was a struggle for the most part.
Trevor Allen rushed for 77 yards on 17 carries, including 72 in the second half. He had a strong sequence on UNI’s opening possession of the third quarter with runs of 22, six and eight on consecutive carries.
But after the Panthers drove to the three and achieved a first and goal, it had to settled for a field goal after a pair of rushes were stuffed and a sack on third down.
Allen added 24-yard run in fourth quarter.
It also took UNI three cracks to score on a first-and-goal from the one after a bad snap on a punt by SUU set the Panthers up in the third quarter.
“We can do some things,” Farley said. “We have good enough players. I trust wholeheartedly in our offensive line. Some things need to be cleaned up ... but the players are there.
“They key is we are scoring points. Will (McElvain) is doing a great job. If we can get the ball in the hands of our productive players and let them make plays that is what we need to do. Whether it is in the run game, pass game, I don’t care how we get there we just got to get there.”
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MCELVAIN HONORED: McElvain, UNI’s redshirt freshman quarterback was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s Newcomer of the Week after completing 17 of 25 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
RUN GAME: Check above.
MCELVAIN IMPROVES: Challenged to get the ball out faster and rely less on his ability to extend plays, Will McElvain was quick with his decisions against SUU.
It’s quickly becoming apparent he has a good connection with Deion McShane, who now has 15 catches for 148 yards in two games.
If there was a place to nitpick, last week McElvain completed nine passes to tight ends, but against the T-Birds, just one. That may have been a product of Briley Moore out with injury, what SUU was giving the Panther offense and UNI keeping its TE’s in more to help protect in the pass game.
RUN D: Like Iowa State, Southern Utah early found some success attacking the edge with sweeps and jet-sweeps, and then later in the game the Thunderbirds hit UNI up the middle between the tackles.
Officially, SUU rushed for just 101 yards on 46 carries, but if you factor in the 37-yard loss the T-Birds suffered on the bad punt snap, they actually rushed for 138 on 45 carries. That is still a pretty good number.
Once again, the defensive line was active with Elerson Smith, Seth Thomas and Jared Brinkman each recording a 1 1/2 tackles for loss and combing for three sacks. Altogether, UNI had 10 tackles for loss.
OVERALL: Very solid performance. If not for a couple of ill-advised penalties, SUU may have had one scoring drive. Two personal fouls, a facemask and a late hit, came on plays where the Panthers had made a stop on third down on the T-Birds first scoring drive.
The defensive backfield of Omar Brown, Roosevelt Lawrence, Xavior Williams, Jevon Brekke and Christian Jegen is playing extremely fast and covering a lot of ground. Bryce Flater and Spencer Cuvelier had better games at linebacker, and the D-line was solid again.
1.) Deion McShane. For the third consecutive year a UNI player has made ESPN’s Top 10 plays of the day and McShane’s electric 56-yard touchdown catch to open the scoring was a worthy ESPN Top 10 play.
And for an ESPN Top 10 refresher, former Panther linebacker Jared Farley made it two years ago with a one-handed catch while playing fullback in goalline situations. Last year, defensive back Xavior Williams made it with a one-handed interception he returned for a touchdown against South Dakota State.
2.) Isaiah Weston. The sophomore had five catches for a career-high 105 receiving yards and a touchdown.
3.) Omar Brown. The true freshman bounced back from a Tuesday scare in practice and had his second strong game recording nine tackles, breaking up a pass recording a tackle for loss and registering his first career interception.